John Burroughs Papers

Biographical / Historical Note

John Burroughs was born on April 3, 1837 on his family's farm in Roxbury, New York. As a child he spent much of his time reading, writing, and working on the farm. He attended the Hedding Literary Institute and the Cooperstown Seminary before leaving...

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John Burroughs was born on April 3, 1837 on his family's farm in Roxbury, New York. As a child he spent much of his time reading, writing, and working on the farm. He attended the Hedding Literary Institute and the Cooperstown Seminary before leaving home to become a teacher. Burroughs began keeping journals in 1854 when he was seventeen. His first published essay was "Fragments from the Table of an Intellectual Epicure" in 1860 and his first significant published piece was "Expression" in the Atlantic Monthly that same year.

Burroughs married Ursula North in 1857. Soon after, the couple moved to Washington, D.C. where Burroughs worked for the U.S. Treasury. In 1871 he took a position as a bank examiner in New York and built his home Riverby on a vineyard in West Park. In 1881 he constructed his Bark Study just off the main house, a retreat where he added to his growing body of essays and other work. By 1885 he gave up his bank position to write and enjoy his environment. Later, Burroughs would divide his time between Slabsides, his summer retreat at West Park and Woodchuck Lodge in Roxbury. Burroughs essays ranged from studies of birds and nature to religion and literature and his work was enjoyed by scholars and laypeople alike. Publishing widely, Burroughs became well known and received numerous awards and honorary degrees. He and his wife had one adopted son, Julius.

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Scope and Content Note

The papers are comprised of four series. The Education Related Material series, 1854- 1901 (0.2 cubic ft.) contains a teaching certificate, two school catalogs, a letter of recommendation, and a set of thank you letters. The letters were sent from...

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The papers are comprised of four series. The Education Related Material series, 1854- 1901 (0.2 cubic ft.) contains a teaching certificate, two school catalogs, a letter of recommendation, and a set of thank you letters. The letters were sent from a class of children for whom Burroughs had led a nature walk. The Writings series, 1856-1907 and undated (0.2 cubic ft.) holds several handwritten manuscripts, a poem, an account book, and three periodicals that have articles written by Burroughs. There is also a unique wildflower album with a bark cover created by Burroughs in 1898. Burroughs creativity is also documented in two volumes of artwork, design layout, proofs and type repros for the limited edition book, In Nature's Laboratory, which records the camping trip in 1916 of Burroughs, Edison, and Firestone. The Photographs series, 1882-1915 and undated (2.0 cubic ft.) includes a two volume Souvenir of the Harriman Alaska Expedition, 1899; an album of cartes de visite portraits of friends and family; a set of thirty-seven glass plate negatives (images taken by Burroughs son, Julius); and a subseries of snapshots and photographs of Burroughs with friends, family, visitors and his homes and travels. A Miscellaneous series, 1896-1909 (0.2 cubic ft.) is comprised of a handprint of John Burroughs and several pages from a scrapbook. Researchers should note that handwritten notes describing some of the material were made by the donor, Elizabeth Burroughs Kelley, granddaughter of John Burroughs.

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Collection Details

Object ID: 93.205.0
Creator: Burroughs, John, 1837-1921 
Inclusive Dates: 1854-1915
Size: 3.6 cubic ft.
Language: English

Collection Access & Use

Item Location: Benson Ford Research Center

Access Restrictions: The papers are open for research.

Credit: From the Collections of The Henry Ford.

Digitized Artifacts From This Collection

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Contact us for more information about this collection.

Thomas Edison, John Burroughs and Henry Ford in Fort Myers, Florida, 1914

  Details

Thomas Edison, John Burroughs and Henry Ford in Fort Myers, Florida, 1914

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Photographic print

Date Made

1914

Summary

John Burroughs (1837-1921) was an internationally known naturalist and writer. His writings appealed to Henry Ford, who invited Burroughs in 1914 to join him and Thomas Edison to explore the Florida Everglades together. This led to the more famous Vagabond camping trips of a few years later, which also involved Harvey Firestone.

Creators

Hunt, F. W. 

Object ID

00.1334.93

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford. Gift of Ford Motor Company.

Location

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Thomas Edison, John Burroughs and Henry Ford in Fort Myers, Florida, 1914

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John Burroughs on the Steps at Wyndygoul, Cos Cob, Connecticut, August 1905

  Details

John Burroughs on the Steps at Wyndygoul, Cos Cob, Connecticut, August 1905

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Photographic print

Date Made

1905

Summary

John Burroughs (1837-1921) was an internationally known naturalist and writer who became incensed by the glowing reviews of writings like Ernest Thompson Seton's Wild Animals I Have Known, which he believed blurred the line between fact and fiction. Seton, feeling his reputation was at stake, invited Burroughs to his country estate, Wyndygoul, for an in-person conversation. Seton took this photograph.

Object ID

29.1764.3

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford.

Location

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

John Burroughs on the Steps at Wyndygoul, Cos Cob, Connecticut, August 1905

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  Details

John Burroughs and Hiram Burroughs near Slabsides, 1896

  Details

John Burroughs and Hiram Burroughs near Slabsides, 1896

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Photographic print

Date Made

October 1896

Summary

John Burroughs (1837-1921) was an internationally known naturalist and writer whose nature essays were well received in both literary and scientific circles. From his home in the Catskills of upstate New York, Burroughs wrote mostly about accessible and familiar landscapes. He is pictured here with his older brother Hiram at Slabsides, the rustic retreat he built near his home.

Creators

Unknown 

Object ID

93.205.40

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford.

Location

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

John Burroughs and Hiram Burroughs near Slabsides, 1896

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What is The Henry Ford?

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John Muir and John Burroughs in Pasadena, California, 1909-1912

  Details

John Muir and John Burroughs in Pasadena, California, 1909-1912

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Artifact

Photographic print

Summary

Naturalist-writer John Burroughs first met wilderness conservationist John Muir in the early 1890s at the home of the editor for Century Magazine. They became friends, then traveled together to places that included Alaska, the Grand Canyon and Yosemite. Here they are together in Pasadena Glen, California, where Muir had friends and Burroughs owned a little winter bungalow.

Creators

Unknown 

Object ID

93.205.61

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford.

Location

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

John Muir and John Burroughs in Pasadena, California, 1909-1912

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  Details

Teaching Certificate for John Burroughs, from Orange Township, New Jersey, February 7, 1860

  Details

Teaching Certificate for John Burroughs, from Orange Township, New Jersey, February 7, 1860

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Artifact

Certificate

Date Made

05 February 1860

Summary

Before John Burroughs (1837-1921) became an internationally known naturalist and writer he earned a living as a teacher. In 1860, Burroughs -- twenty-three, married and an aspiring writer -- taught briefly in Essex County, New Jersey. Later that year he wrote an essay that was published in the Atlantic Monthly. The article gained wide-spread recognition and changed the course of Burroughs' life.

Creators

Unknown 

Object ID

93.205.144

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford.

Location

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Teaching Certificate for John Burroughs, from Orange Township, New Jersey, February 7, 1860

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

What is The Henry Ford?

The national attraction for discovering your ingenuity while exploring America’s spirit of innovation. There is always much to see and do at The Henry Ford.

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  Details

Letter to John Burroughs from Morrison DeWitt, a Student Thanking Him for a Nature Walk, May 16, 1901

  Details

Letter to John Burroughs from Morrison DeWitt, a Student Thanking Him for a Nature Walk, May 16, 1901

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Letter (Correspondence)

Date Made

16 May 1901

Summary

In May 1901, John Burroughs traveled to the State Normal School in New Paltz, New York to share his love of nature with the students. On a hike he discussed the local landscape and made observations about the natural world -- the group even found a quail's nest with eggs. Students later wrote thank you notes and invited Burroughs back for a future visit.

Object ID

93.205.125.4

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford.

Location

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Letter to John Burroughs from Morrison DeWitt, a Student Thanking Him for a Nature Walk, May 16, 1901

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

What is The Henry Ford?

The national attraction for discovering your ingenuity while exploring America’s spirit of innovation. There is always much to see and do at The Henry Ford.

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  Details

Letter to John Burroughs from Alida Shoommaker, a Student Thanking Him for a Nature Walk, May 16, 1901

  Details

Letter to John Burroughs from Alida Shoommaker, a Student Thanking Him for a Nature Walk, May 16, 1901

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Letter (Correspondence)

Date Made

16 May 1901

Summary

In May 1901, John Burroughs traveled to the State Normal School in New Paltz, New York to share his love of nature with the students. On a hike he discussed the local landscape and made observations about the natural world -- the group even found a quail's nest with eggs. Students later wrote thank you notes and invited Burroughs back for a future visit.

Object ID

93.205.125.10

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford.

Location

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Letter to John Burroughs from Alida Shoommaker, a Student Thanking Him for a Nature Walk, May 16, 1901

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

What is The Henry Ford?

The national attraction for discovering your ingenuity while exploring America’s spirit of innovation. There is always much to see and do at The Henry Ford.

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  Details

Letter to John Burroughs from Stanley Tracy, a Student Thanking Him for a Nature Walk, May 16, 1901

  Details

Letter to John Burroughs from Stanley Tracy, a Student Thanking Him for a Nature Walk, May 16, 1901

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Letter (Correspondence)

Date Made

16 May 1901

Summary

In May 1901, John Burroughs traveled to the State Normal School in New Paltz, New York to share his love of nature with the students. On a hike he discussed the local landscape and made observations about the natural world -- the group even found a quail's nest with eggs. Students later wrote thank you notes and invited Burroughs back for a future visit.

Creators

Tracy, Stanley 

Object ID

93.205.125.13

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford.

Location

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

Letter to John Burroughs from Stanley Tracy, a Student Thanking Him for a Nature Walk, May 16, 1901

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

What is The Henry Ford?

The national attraction for discovering your ingenuity while exploring America’s spirit of innovation. There is always much to see and do at The Henry Ford.

VIEW CALENDAR

  Details

John Burroughs' Album of Pressed Wildflowers Gathered during the Harriman Alaska Expedition, 1899

  Details

John Burroughs' Album of Pressed Wildflowers Gathered during the Harriman Alaska Expedition, 1899

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

Artifact

Album (Book)

Date Made

1899

Summary

In 1899, John Burroughs joined a group of more than 20 scientists, naturalists, and artists for a scientific exploration of the Alaskan coast. Financed and accompanied by railroad tycoon Edward H. Harriman, the expedition traveled aboard the lavishly refitted George W. Elder, collecting specimens along the way. Those specimens included native wildflowers, hand-picked by Burroughs and pressed into this book.

Object ID

93.205.123

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford.

Location

By Request in the Benson Ford Research Center

Get more details in Digital Collections at:

thehenryford.org

John Burroughs' Album of Pressed Wildflowers Gathered during the Harriman Alaska Expedition, 1899

View in our Collectionson thehenryford.org 

What is The Henry Ford?

The national attraction for discovering your ingenuity while exploring America’s spirit of innovation. There is always much to see and do at The Henry Ford.

VIEW CALENDAR

  Details